The Member of the Welsh Parliament for Aberconwy – Janet Finch-Saunders MS – has today (24 March) welcomed the news that the long-awaited free NHS 111 helpline finally looks set to be rolled out in North Wales.
Concerningly, there was a suggestion at the close of last year that local residents would have had to wait until 2022 for access to the helpline. The non-emergency service, which operates 24 hours a day, was first piloted in Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea in 2016.
The free-to-call 111 service combines the NHS Direct Wales advice line for non-999 health calls with the out-of-hours GPs and the Welsh Ambulance Service. The 999-dial code should continue to be used in any cases of emergency.
Commenting on the new timetable, Janet said:
"I warmly welcome the news that NHS 111 will finally be delivered to residents across the BCUHB region from this summer. This has become a vital telephone service that many of my most vulnerable residents are desperate to utilise, particularly after strong advertising campaigns for the service throughout the pandemic.
"Like many local residents, I was alarmed last year at indications of a delay, as parity of access to this medical assistance should have been made a priority. Indeed, it has jarred with many of my constituents that they have been stuck having to pay for calls to NHS Direct Wales to seek non-emergency medical advice for so long, compared to elsewhere.
"The local investment into this telephone support scheme is also welcome, with process underway to recruit over 90 call handers and 55 clinicians, as well as a number of additional supportive staff. I will continue to push to see such investment replicated across the Health Board, more broadly, so that the region's waiting list crisis can also be addressed."
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